Tigers’ defense shines in first scrimmage

Sunday, March 14, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:59 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 7, 2008

Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel said he does not want to dwell on what his team is doing well.

Pinkel’s team had its first scrimmage of the spring Saturday morning at the Daniel J. Devine Pavilion, where the Tigers had a chance to show their progress since practices began March 4.

“I think always the focus I have in this program is not evaluating the good things, it’s how can we make the weaknesses strengths,” Pinkel said.

The first-team offense and the first-team defense did not face each other much, but the defensive effort was strong.

The Tiger defense caused three fumbles and was effective stopping the run.

At linebacker, Missouri has made two additions that give the Tigers more athleticism.

Dedrick Harrington, who played rover and made the 2003 Big 12 Conference All-Freshman team, and David Richard, who sat out last season after transferring from Michigan State, where he played running back, add depth at linebacker.

“I think I’m going to be able to fit in well,” Richard said. “I think we have the fastest linebacker corps in the nation and I just think I fit in well helping the defense out.”

Harrington said he is comfortable in his new position after recording 64 tackles and two sacks last year.

“I love being a lot closer to the ball than I was at safety,” Harrington said. “Linebacker is a position I’d love to master.”

The defensive line also looked strong, stifling the rush and holding tailback Damien Nash to modest gains.

Defensive end Brian Smith, who led Missouri and NCAA freshmen with eight sacks in 2003, said he is confident the line will improve from last year.

“One of our main focuses this year will be working on our rushing defense,” Smith said.

Although the offense, which averaged 30.7 points last season, scored one touchdown, the passing game was effective.

Wide receiver Thomson Omboga’s 15-yard touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone from Brad Smith was the most notable offensive effort.

Omboga, who led Missouri with 52 catches for 466 yards in 2003, Sean Coffey and Brad Ekwerekwu made starts last year at wide receiver. Pinkel said the competition for receiver spots will be tough.

“At the beginning of the season next year, during two-a-days, we’re going to throw to those players that make plays,” Pinkel said.

Pinkel said he was pleased with the progress the team has made since spring practices began. The scrimmage was the first time the Tigers have been in game situations since the end of the season.

“I thought (first-team) offense and defense did some good things,” Pinkel said. “My expectations for them were pretty high, and we’re going in the right direction.”

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